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" Imbong vs Ochoa
This entry was posted in Actual Case or Controversy Constitutional Law 1 Declaratory Relief Due Process Clause

Equal Protection Clause Facial Challenge Judicial Branch Legal Standing One Subject One Title Rule

Transcendental Importanct and tagged Political Law 1 on November 3, 2014 by Morrie26

Imbong vs Ochoa
Substantial: Right to Life; Health; Religion; Free Speech; Privacy; Due Process Clause; Equal
Protection Clause
Procedural: Actual Case; Facial Challenge; Locus Standi; Declaratory Relief; One Subject One
Title Rule

IMBONG VS OCHOA

G.R. No. 204819 April 8, 2014

JAMES M. IMBONG and LOVELY-ANN C. IMBONG, for themselves and in behalf of their minor children,
LUCIA CARLOS IMBONG and BERNADETTE CARLOS IMBONG and MAGNIFICAT CHILD
DEVELOPMENT CENTER, INC., Petitioners,
vs.
HON. PAQUITO N. OCHOA, JR., Executive Secretary, HON. FLORENCIO B. ABAD, Secretary, Department
of Budget and Management, HON. ENRIQUE T. ONA, Secretary, Department of Health, HON. ARMIN A.
LUISTRO, Secretary, Department of Education, Culture and Sports and HON. MANUELA. ROXAS II,
Secretary, Department of Interior and Local Government, Respondents.

Facts:

Republic Act (R.A.) No. 10354, otherwise known as the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health
Act of 2012 (RH Law), was enacted by Congress on December 21, 2012.

Challengers from various sectors of society are questioning the constitutionality of the said Act. The
petitioners are assailing the constitutionality of RH Law on the following grounds:

SUBSTANTIAL ISSUES:

1. The RH Law violates the right to life of the unborn.


2. The RH Law violates the right to health and the right to protection against hazardous products.
3. The RH Law violates the right to religious freedom.
4. The RH Law violates the constitutional provision on involuntary servitude.
5. The RH Law violates the right to equal protection of the law.
6. The RH Law violates the right to free speech.
7. The RH Law is “void-for-vagueness” in violation of the due process clause of the Constitution.
8. The RH Law intrudes into the zone of privacy of one’s family protected by the Constitution

PROCEDURAL: Whether the Court may exercise its power of judicial review over the controversy.

1. Power of Judicial Review


2. Actual Case or Controversy
3. Facial Challenge
4. Locus Standi
5. Declaratory Relief
6. One Subject/One Title Rule

Issue/s:
SUBSTANTIAL ISSUES:

Whether or not (WON) RA 10354/Reproductive Health (RH) Law is unconstitutional for violating the:

1. Right to life
2. Right to health
3. Freedom of religion and right to free speech
4. Right to privacy (marital privacy and autonomy)
5. Freedom of expression and academic freedom
6. Due process clause
7. Equal protection clause
8. Prohibition against involuntary servitude

PROCEDURAL:

Whether the Court can exercise its power of judicial review over the controversy.

1. Actual Case or Controversy


2. Facial Challenge
3. Locus Standi
4. Declaratory Relief
5. One Subject/One Title Rule

Discussions:

PROCEDURAL

Judicial Review Jurisprudence is replete with the rule that the power of judicial review is limited by four
exacting requisites: (a) there must be an actual case or controversy; (b) the petitioners must possess locus
standi; (c) the question of constitutionality must be raised at the earliest opportunity; and (d) the issue of
constitutionality must be the lis mota of the case.

Actual Controversy
Controversy: An actual case or controversy means an existing case or controversy that is
appropriate or ripe for determination, not conjectural or anticipatory, lest the decision of the court would
amount to an advisory opinion. It must concern a real, tangible and not merely a theoretical question or
issue. There ought to be an actual and substantial controversy admitting of specific relief through a decree
conclusive in nature, as distinguished from an opinion advising what the law would be upon a hypothetical
state of facts. Corollary to the requirement of an actual case or controversy is the requirement of ripeness.
A question is ripe for adjudication when the act being challenged has had a direct adverse effect on the
individual challenging it. For a case to be considered ripe for adjudication, it is a prerequisite that something
has then been accomplished or performed by either branch before a court may come into the picture, and
the petitioner must allege the existence of an immediate or threatened injury to himself as a result of the
challenged action. He must show that he has sustained or is immediately in danger of sustaining some direct
injury as a result of the act complained of

Facial Challenge: A facial challenge, also known as a First Amendment Challenge, is one that is launched
to assail the validity of statutes concerning not only protected speech, but also all other rights in the First
Amendment. These include religious freedom, freedom of the press, and the right of the people to peaceably
assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances. After all, the fundamental right to
religious freedom, freedom of the press and peaceful assembly are but component rights of the right to
one’s freedom of expression, as they are modes which one’s thoughts are externalized.

Locus Standi: Locus standi or legal standing is defined as a personal and substantial interest in a case
such that the party has sustained or will sustain direct injury as a result of the challenged governmental act.
It requires a personal stake in the outcome of the controversy as to assure the concrete adverseness which
sharpens the presentation of issues upon which the court so largely depends for illumination of difficult
constitutional questions.

Transcendental Importance
Importance: the Court leans on the doctrine that “the rule on standing is a matter of
procedure, hence, can be relaxed for non-traditional plaintiffs like ordinary citizens, taxpayers, and
legislators when the public interest so requires, such as when the matter is of transcendental importance, of
overreaching significance to society, or of paramount public interest.”

One Subject-One Title: The “one title-one subject” rule does not require the Congress to employ in the
title of the enactment language of such precision as to mirror, fully index or catalogue all the contents and
the minute details therein. The rule is sufficiently complied with if the title is comprehensive enough as to
include the general object which the statute seeks to effect, and where, as here, the persons interested are
informed of the nature, scope and consequences of the proposed law and its operation. Moreover, this
Court has invariably adopted a liberal rather than technical construction of the rule “so as not to cripple or
impede legislation.” The one subject/one title rule expresses the principle that the title of a law must not be
“so uncertain that the average person reading it would not be informed of the purpose of the enactment or
put on inquiry as to its contents, or which is misleading, either in referring to or indicating one subject where
another or different one is really embraced in the act, or in omitting any expression or indication of the real
subject or scope of the act.”

Declaration of Unconstitutionality: Orthodox view: An unconstitutional act is not a law; it confers no


rights; it imposes no duties; it affords no protection; it creates no office; it is, in legal contemplation, as
inoperative as though it had never been passed. Modern view: Under this view, the court in passing upon the
question of constitutionality does not annul or repeal the statute if it finds it in conflict with the
Constitution. It simply refuses to recognize it and determines the rights of the parties just as if such statute
had no existence. But certain legal effects of the statute prior to its declaration of unconstitutionality may
be recognized. Requisites for partial unconstitutionality: (1) The Legislature must be willing to retain the
valid portion(s), usually shown by the presence of a separability clause in the law; and (2) The valid portion
can stand independently as law.

Ruling/s:

SUBSTANTIAL

1. Majority of the Members of the Court believe that the question of when life begins is a scientific and
medical issue that should not be decided, at this stage, without proper hearing and evidence. However,
they agreed that individual Members could express their own views on this matter.

Article II, Section 12 of the Constitution states: “The State recognizes the sanctity of family life and shall
protect and strengthen the family as a basic autonomous social institution. It shall equally protect the life of
the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.”

In its plain and ordinary meaning (a canon in statutory construction), the traditional meaning of “conception”
according to reputable dictionaries cited by the ponente is that life begins at fertilization. Medical sources
also support the view that conception begins at fertilization.

The framers of the Constitution also intended for (a) “conception” to refer to the moment of “fertilization”
and (b) the protection of the unborn child upon fertilization. In addition, they did not intend to ban all
contraceptives for being unconstitutional; only those that kill or destroy the fertilized ovum would be
prohibited. Contraceptives that actually prevent the union of the male sperm and female ovum, and those
that similarly take action before fertilization should be deemed non-abortive, and thus constitutionally
permissible.

The intent of the framers of the Constitution for protecting the life of the unborn child was to prevent the
Legislature from passing a measure prevent abortion. The Court cannot interpret this otherwise. The RH
Law is in line with this intent and actually prohibits abortion. By using the word “or” in defining
abortifacient (Section 4(a)), the RH Law prohibits not only drugs or devices that prevent implantation but
also those that induce abortion and induce the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb. The RH Law
recognizes that the fertilized ovum already has life and that the State has a bounded duty to protect it.

However, the authors of the IRR gravely abused their office when they redefined the meaning of
abortifacient by using the term “primarily”. Recognizing as abortifacients only those that “primarily induce
abortion or the destruction of a fetus inside the mother’s womb or the prevention of the fertilized ovum to
reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb” (Sec. 3.01(a) of the IRR) would pave the way for the
approval of contraceptives that may harm or destroy the life of the unborn from conception/fertilization.
This violates Section 12, Article II of the Constitution. For the same reason, the definition of contraceptives
under the IRR (Sec 3.01(j)), which also uses the term “primarily”, must be struck down.

2. The RH Law does not intend to do away with RA 4729 (1966). With RA 4729 in place, the Court
believes adequate safeguards exist to ensure that only safe contraceptives are made available to the
public. In fulfilling its mandate under Sec. 10 of the RH Law, the DOH must keep in mind the
provisions of RA 4729: the contraceptives it will procure shall be from a duly licensed drug store or
pharmaceutical company and that the actual distribution of these contraceptive drugs and devices will
be done following a prescription of a qualified medical practitioner.

Meanwhile, the requirement of Section 9 of the RH Law is to be considered “mandatory” only after these
devices and materials have been tested, evaluated and approved by the FDA. Congress cannot determine
that contraceptives are “safe, legal, non-abortificient and effective”.

3. The Court cannot determine whether or not the use of contraceptives or participation in support of
modern RH measures (a) is moral from a religious standpoint; or, (b) right or wrong according to one’s
dogma or belief. However, the Court has the authority to determine whether or not the RH Law
contravenes the Constitutional guarantee of religious freedom.

The State may pursue its legitimate secular objectives without being dictated upon the policies of any one
religion. To allow religious sects to dictate policy or restrict other groups would violate Article III, Section 5
of the Constitution or the Establishment Clause. This would cause the State to adhere to a particular
religion, and thus, establishes a state religion. Thus, the State can enhance its population control program
through the RH Law even if the promotion of contraceptive use is contrary to the religious beliefs of e.g. the
petitioners.

4. Section 23A (2)(i) of the RH Law, which permits RH procedures even with only the consent of the
spouse undergoing the provision (disregarding spousal content), intrudes into martial privacy and
autonomy and goes against the constitutional safeguards for the family as the basic social institution.
Particularly, Section 3, Article XV of the Constitution mandates the State to defend: (a) the right of
spouses to found a family in accordance with their religious convictions and the demands of
responsible parenthood and (b) the right of families or family associations to participate in the
planning and implementation of policies and programs that affect them. The RH Law cannot infringe
upon this mutual decision-making, and endanger the institutions of marriage and the family.

The exclusion of parental consent in cases where a minor undergoing a procedure is already a parent or has
had a miscarriage (Section 7 of the RH Law) is also anti-family and violates Article II, Section 12 of the
Constitution, which states: “The natural and primary right and duty of parents in the rearing of the youth for
civic efficiency and the development of moral character shall receive the support of the Government.” In
addition, the portion of Section 23(a)(ii) which reads “in the case of minors, the written consent of parents
or legal guardian or, in their absence, persons exercising parental authority or next-of-kin shall be required
only in elective surgical procedures” is invalid as it denies the right of parental authority in cases where what
is involved is “non-surgical procedures.”

However, a minor may receive information (as opposed to procedures) about family planning services.
Parents are not deprived of parental guidance and control over their minor child in this situation and may
assist her in deciding whether to accept or reject the information received. In addition, an exception may be
made in life-threatening procedures.
5. The Court declined to rule on the constitutionality of Section 14 of the RH Law, which mandates the
State to provide Age-and Development-Appropriate Reproductive Health Education. Although
educators might raise their objection to their participation in the RH education program, the Court
reserves its judgment should an actual case be filed before it.

Any attack on its constitutionality is premature because the Department of Education has not yet formulated
a curriculum on age-appropriate reproductive health education.

Section 12, Article II of the Constitution places more importance on the role of parents in the development
of their children with the use of the term “primary”. The right of parents in upbringing their youth is superior
to that of the State.

The provisions of Section 14 of the RH Law and corresponding provisions of the IRR supplement (rather
than supplant) the right and duties of the parents in the moral development of their children.

By incorporating parent-teacher-community associations, school officials, and other interest groups in


developing the mandatory RH program, it could very well be said that the program will be in line with the
religious beliefs of the petitioners.

6. The RH Law does not violate the due process clause of the Constitution as the definitions of several
terms as observed by the petitioners are not vague.

The definition of “private health care service provider” must be seen in relation to Section 4(n) of the RH
Law which defines a “public health service provider”. The “private health care institution” cited under Section
7 should be seen as synonymous to “private health care service provider.

The terms “service” and “methods” are also broad enough to include providing of information and rendering
of medical procedures. Thus, hospitals operated by religious groups are exempted from rendering
RH service and modern family planning methods (as provided for by Section 7 of the RH Law) as well as
from giving RH information and procedures.

The RH Law also defines “incorrect information”. Used together in relation to Section 23 (a)(1), the terms
“incorrect” and “knowingly” connote a sense of malice and ill motive to mislead or misrepresent the public as
to the nature and effect of programs and services on reproductive health.

7. To provide that the poor are to be given priority in the government’s RH program is not a violation of
the equal protection clause. In fact, it is pursuant to Section 11, Article XIII of the Constitution, which
states that the State shall prioritize the needs of the underprivileged, sick elderly, disabled, women,
and children and that it shall endeavor to provide medical care to paupers.

The RH Law does not only seek to target the poor to reduce their number, since Section 7 of the RH Law
prioritizes poor and marginalized couples who are suffering from fertility issues and desire to have children.
In addition, the RH Law does not prescribe the number of children a couple may have and does not impose
conditions upon couples who intend to have children. The RH Law only seeks to provide priority to the poor.

The exclusion of private educational institutions from the mandatory RH education program under Section
14 is valid. There is a need to recognize the academic freedom of private educational institutions especially
with respect to religious instruction and to consider their sensitivity towards the teaching of reproductive
health education

8. The requirement under Sec. 17 of the RH Law for private and non-government health care service
providers to render 48 hours of pro bonoRH services does not amount to involuntary servitude, for
two reasons. First, the practice of medicine is undeniably imbued with public interest that it is both the
power and a duty of the State to control and regulate it in order to protect and promote the public
welfare. Second, Section 17 only encourages private and non-government RH service providers to
render pro bono Besides the PhilHealth accreditation, no penalty is imposed should they do
otherwise.

However, conscientious objectors are exempt from Sec. 17 as long as their religious beliefs do not allow
them to render RH service, pro bono or otherwise
PROCEDURAL

1. In this case, the Court is of the view that an actual case or controversy exists and that the same is ripe
for judicial determination. Considering that the RH Law and its implementing rules have already taken
effect and that budgetary measures to carry out the law have already been passed, it is evident that the
subject petitions present a justiciable controversy. As stated earlier, when an action of the legislative
branch is seriously alleged to have infringed the Constitution, it not only becomes a right, but also a
duty of the Judiciary to settle the dispute.

Moreover, the petitioners have shown that the case is so because medical practitioners or medical providers
are in danger of being criminally prosecuted under the RH Law for vague violations thereof, particularly
public health officers who are threatened to be dismissed from the service with forfeiture of retirement and
other benefits. They must, at least, be heard on the matter now.

2. In this jurisdiction, the application of doctrines originating from the U.S. has been generally
maintained, albeit with some modifications. While the Court has withheld the application of facial
challenges to strictly penal statues, it has expanded its scope to cover statutes not only regulating free
speech, but also those involving religious freedom, and other fundamental rights. The underlying
reason for this modification is simple. For unlike its counterpart in the U.S., this Court, under its
expanded jurisdiction, is mandated by the Fundamental Law not only to settle actual controversies
involving rights which are legally demandable and enforceable, but also to determine whether or not
there has been a grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction on the part of
any branch or instrumentality of the Government. Verily, the framers of Our Constitution envisioned a
proactive Judiciary, ever vigilant with its duty to maintain the supremacy of the Constitution.

Consequently, considering that the foregoing petitions have seriously alleged that the constitutional human
rights to life, speech and religion and other fundamental rights mentioned above have been violated by the
assailed legislation, the Court has authority to take cognizance of these kindred petitions and to determine
if the RH Law can indeed pass constitutional scrutiny. To dismiss these petitions on the simple expedient
that there exist no actual case or controversy, would diminish this Court as a reactive branch of government,
acting only when the Fundamental Law has been transgressed, to the detriment of the Filipino people.

3. Even if the constitutionality of the RH Law may not be assailed through an “as-applied challenge, still,
the Court has time and again acted liberally on the locus standi requirement. It has accorded certain
individuals standing to sue, not otherwise directly injured or with material interest affected by a
Government act, provided a constitutional issue of transcendental importance is invoked. The rule on
locus standi is, after all, a procedural technicality which the Court has, on more than one occasion,
waived or relaxed, thus allowing non-traditional plaintiffs, such as concerned citizens, taxpayers,
voters or legislators, to sue in the public interest, albeit they may not have been directly injured by the
operation of a law or any other government act.

The present action cannot be properly treated as a petition for prohibition, the transcendental importance of
the issues involved in this case warrants that the Court set aside the technical defects and take primary
jurisdiction over the petition at bar. One cannot deny that the issues raised herein have potentially pervasive
influence on the social and moral well being of this nation, specially the youth; hence, their proper and just
determination is an imperative need. This is in accordance with the well-entrenched principle that rules of
procedure are not inflexible tools designed to hinder or delay, but to facilitate and promote the
administration of justice. Their strict and rigid application, which would result in technicalities that tend to
frustrate, rather than promote substantial justice, must always be eschewed.

4. Most of the petitions are praying for injunctive reliefs and so the Court would just consider them as
petitions for prohibition under Rule 65, over which it has original jurisdiction. Where the case has far-
reaching implications and prays for injunctive reliefs, the Court may consider them as petitions for
prohibition under Rule 65.
5. The RH Law does not violate the one subject/one bill rule. In this case, a textual analysis of the various
provisions of the law shows that both “reproductive health” and “responsible parenthood” are
interrelated and germane to the overriding objective to control the population growth. As expressed in
the first paragraph of Section 2 of the RH Law:

SEC. 2. Declaration of Policy. – The State recognizes and guarantees the human rights of all persons
including their right to equality and nondiscrimination of these rights, the right to sustainable human
development, the right to health which includes reproductive health, the right to education and information,
and the right to choose and make decisions for themselves in accordance with their religious convictions,
ethics, cultural beliefs, and the demands of responsible parenthood.

Considering the close intimacy between “reproductive health” and “responsible parenthood” which bears to
the attainment of the goal of achieving “sustainable human development” as stated under its terms, the
Court finds no reason to believe that Congress intentionally sought to deceive the public as to the contents
of the assailed legislation.

Accordingly, the Court declares R.A. No. 10354 as NOT UNCONSTITUTIONAL except with respect to the
following provisions which are declared UNCONSTITUTIONAL:

1) Section 7 and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they: a) require private health
facilities and non-maternity specialty hospitals and hospitals owned and operated by a religious group to
refer patients, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to
another health facility which is conveniently accessible; and b) allow minor-parents or minors who have
suffered a miscarriage access to modem methods of family planning without written consent from their
parents or guardian/s;

2) Section 23(a)(l) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5 .24 thereof,
insofar as they punish any healthcare service provider who fails and or refuses to disseminate information
regarding programs and services on reproductive health regardless of his or her religious beliefs.

3) Section 23(a)(2)(i) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they allow a married
individual, not in an emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to
undergo reproductive health procedures without the consent of the spouse;

4) Section 23(a)(2)(ii) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR insofar as they limit the requirement
of parental consent only to elective surgical procedures.

5) Section 23(a)(3) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5.24 thereof,
insofar as they punish any healthcare service provider who fails and/or refuses to refer a patient not in an
emergency or life-threatening case, as defined under Republic Act No. 8344, to another health care service
provider within the same facility or one which is conveniently accessible regardless of his or her religious
beliefs;

6) Section 23(b) and the corresponding provision in the RH-IRR, particularly Section 5 .24 thereof, insofar
as they punish any public officer who refuses to support reproductive health programs or shall do any act
that hinders the full implementation of a reproductive health program, regardless of his or her religious
beliefs;

7) Section 17 and the corresponding prov1s10n in the RH-IRR regarding the rendering of pro bona
reproductive health service in so far as they affect the conscientious objector in securing PhilHealth
accreditation; and

8) Section 3.0l(a) and Section 3.01 G) of the RH-IRR, which added the qualifier “primarily” in defining
abortifacients and contraceptives, as they are ultra vires and, therefore, null and void for contravening
Section 4(a) of the RH Law and violating Section 12, Article II of the Constitution.
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